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    Young Kai Sotto relishes PH pool stint, shows he can mix it up with veteran bigs

    Nov 12, 2018
    PHOTO: jerome ascaño

    KAI Sotto is delighted to live his dream and train with the top PBA players as the youngest member of the men’s national basketball pool.

    The 16-year-old high school star was called up to be part of the 20-man pool for the FIBA World Cup qualifiers fifth window against Kazakhstan on November 30 and Iran on December 3 both at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

    The 7-foot-1 Sotto attended the national team’s first day of practice on Monday night at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City.

    “Dream ko na makasama sa talagang team and itong pagsama sa pool pero kahit ano man ang kalabasan positive lang ako dahil papaano 16 (years old) pa lang naman ako,” Sotto said. “Kahit anong mangyari dito alam ko naman na magandang bagay yun. Para sa akin magpepray lang ako na kahit anong mangyari magiging successful itong Team Pilipinas.”

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      Being part of the men’s national basketball team is his dream, but the Batang Gilas standout never expected it will happen this quickly.

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      “Hindi ko alam na agad agad ngayon pala mangyayari agad ayun nga sobrang nagulat ako and sobrang happy ko na makasama dito,” he said. “Sobrang happy and sobrang excited ko na mag practice dito and makilala yung mga teammates ko dito and looking forward na maraming matutunan sa kanila.”

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      And as part of the Team Pilipinas-backed by Smart, Sotto is looking forward to learn from the top PBA players in the country, especially from the country’s best big men Junemar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter.

      “Excited din ako na makasama sila and sa tingin ko talaga marami akong matututunan from them dahil yun nga nakikita sa PBA na sila yung mga dominant na big men,” said Sotto, who had a chance to practice with Fajardo on the first day but missed the chance to train with Slaughter as Ginebra big man was playing in the PBA Governors' Cup semis.

      “Kung ano man yung makikita ko sa kanila siyempre yun yung maaapply ko sa sarili ko para magimprove pa.”

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      Aside from the big men, Ateneo high school’s center is also looking forward to learn from everyone and he is ready for the physicality from his seasoned teammates.

      “Sana lahat siyempre hindi naman siguro imposible yun kasi yun yung gusto ko sa kanilang lahat yung may matutunan ako sa kanila kahit sino naman willing naman ako matuto makikinig lang ako sa kanila,” Sotto said. “Sana ibigay nila yung lahat nila dahil siyempre kaya naman ako nandito para maramdaman yung mga bagay na yun para ma-experience din kung paano talaga maglaro yung players sa ganitong klaseng level.”

      Sotto, who is currently balancing the on-going UAAP Season 81 juniors and his duty as a national team member, added that he also looks forward to be mentored by Team Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao.

      “Nagustuhan ko talaga si coach Yeng nagsimula yun nung nagpractice ako sa kanya sa NLEX mga two or three times na,” he said. “Gusto ko siyang coach dahil alam mo yung hinahayaan lang niya yung players niya maglaro,binibigyan niya ng confidence lagi and tsaka gusto ko talaga maging coach siya as in maging player sa kanya. Excited din ako dahil doon.”

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      Regardless if he gets a spot in the final line-up or not, Sotto promised to make the most of this fruitful opportunity.

      “Nakakagulat at siyempre malaking blessing yun para sa akin kaya ichecherish ko itong opportunity na ito hindi ko sasayangin,” he said.

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      PHOTO: jerome ascaño
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